Progress the focus of annual township address

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published September 21, 2017

HARRISON TOWNSHIP — There’s no doubt about it: Harrison Township is growing.

According to a 2000 census, the population of the lakefront community stood at 24,461. The number of people residing in the township increased to 26,004 by 2008, and as of today, the community is more than 27,000 strong, with population estimates over the next two years to exceed 28,000.

With that increase in the population comes an increase in construction, both commercial and residential.

Township Supervisor Ken Verkest said during his Sept. 15 annual State of the Township address that more than 200 single-family home projects are in the works over the next couple of years. In addition, there has been recent activity in the township’s industrial area off of North River Road, near Interstate 94, with 15 different interested parties preparing to redevelop some of the vacant buildings in that area, and there’s continued growth in taxable value in the Downtown Development Authority in the area of Jefferson Avenue and Crocker Boulevard.

In front of a packed room at Bumper’s Landing, Verkest explained that even with these upcoming projects, which also include a new marine sales business on Metropolitan Parkway at Prentiss Street, Harrison Township hasn’t changed.

“It’s quiet here, yet there’s a lot to do,” he said. “We’re not busy, not formal or fast-paced.”

That’s how it was when his paternal and maternal grandparents moved into the township in 1949 and 1955 respectively. Verkest, 49, was raised in the township.

He was a member of the Board of Trustees until being appointed township supervisor in 2011. He was first elected to the position in 2012.

Many say Verkest’s extensive knowledge of Harrison Township, often referred to as “The HTP” on social media, is why the community remains healthy both economically and environmentally.

“Ken is the type of guy who is very humble and very quiet,” said state Rep. Steve Marino, R-Harrison Township. “But he knows everything. And he’s always accessible and amazing to the people in Harrison Township.”

Another township resident, Macomb County Commissioner Robert Leonetti, said he’s thankful for Verkest’s vast knowledge, as it has aided him when the two work together for the community.

“He knows everything. He knows which direction every blade of grass is growing in Harrison Township,” Leonetti said.

Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller, a former Harrison Township supervisor, said she and Verkest have worked together to keep local stormwater drains running smoothly. Last year, Miller captured grant funds that are helping the township — including the 900 members of the special assessment district — to upgrade the Beachwood Pump Station at Northpointe Parkway and Metropolitan Parkway. The pump station is near where several county drains converge and eventually pump stormwater to Lake St. Clair.

“There’s been an unbelieveable change for the better since Candice took office,” Verkest said. “Without these sort of stormwater projects, we’d have a lot of flooding (in the central areas of the township).”

Miller said that even though she has much on her plate since taking office, specifically the ongoing work at the 15 Mile Road drain that collapsed last December in Fraser, she has found success in making sure all Macomb County drains are and will continue to be operational, including those in her hometown of Harrison Township.

“I love Harrison Township and I love living here,” she said. “It’s a beautiful community and it’s a reflection of Macomb County.”

Harrison Township is also called Boat Town USA. One of the smallest townships in Michigan, it spans just over 23 square miles, 9 square miles of which are part of  Lake St. Clair.

“We are a boating community,” Verkest said. “Many people access Lake St. Clair via Harrison Township.”

Verkest also spoke about the more than $250,000 in grant money to continue the work to remove phragmites, and the Fire Department has experienced advancements in the past year with the hiring of two firefighters and the purchase of new lifesaving equipment, including a new Jaws of Life. In addition, the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office is now dispatching fire emergency calls through COMTEC, resulting in more firefighters available per call and faster response times.